Wildlife photographer David Chapman on what wildlife to spot in Devon this month and a great spot for autumnal birdwatching.


Great British Life: A female southern hawker lays her eggs (c) David ChapmanA female southern hawker lays her eggs (c) David Chapman

Southern hawker

We are now well into autumn but there is still plenty of insect life when the weather is warm. Around garden ponds and lakes we might see southern hawker dragonflies. Males are blue and green, females brown and green, they are quite big insects, about seven centimetres long. Look for the females laying eggs often on logs at the edge of the water. Unlike most dragonflies this is a very inquisitive insect, often hovering in front of people to check them out!

Great British Life: Dormice are very sleepy creatures which go into hibernation this month (c) David ChapmanDormice are very sleepy creatures which go into hibernation this month (c) David Chapman


The dormouse is a mammal made famous by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland. The dormouse was the sleepy creature as indeed it is in reality. It has the longest hibernation of any British mammal and even during summer, when it is supposedly active, it sleeps for most of the daylight hours. This is a creature which thrives in hazel woodland because it likes to fatten itself on hazel nuts before it hibernates. It can be found at several sites in Devon but will soon be fast asleep for the winter.

Great British Life: Goldfinches feed on teasels in autumn (c) David ChapmanGoldfinches feed on teasels in autumn (c) David Chapman


I always look forward to seeing goldfinches feeding on teasels in the autumn. These small finches have longer beaks than most of the finch family, enabling them to extract teasel seeds from the prickly heads, and are nimble enough to be able to hang on to a teasel blowing in the wind. Listen when a flock takes to the air, their wonderful calls are joyous and are the reason for the collective noun of the goldfinch: a charm.


Great British Life: The Exeter Canal is a rich environment for wildlife (c) David ChapmanThe Exeter Canal is a rich environment for wildlife (c) David Chapman

Exeter Canal

Just south of Exminster, Station Road leads across the marshes to a car park beside the Exeter Canal. From here it is possible to walk north or south on either side of the canal, one side gives good views over the freshwater marshes the other gets you closer to the reedbeds opposite Topsham and the open estuary.

This is a great spot for birdwatching and during the autumn the number of birds will gradually build to a peak in the winter. The large expanse of grazing marsh attracts big flocks of wildfowl with a lot of brent and Canada geese. The most numerous wildfowl species is the wigeon but there are also plenty of teal and shelduck. Wading birds on the marsh include snipe, lapwing, curlew, grey heron and little egret. On the canal cormorants and mute swans are easy to see and kingfishers are regular enough to give us a sporting chance. On the muddy shore of the estuary there is a good selection of wading birds and also the chance of red-breasted mergansers on the open water.

In October we might see southern hawker dragonflies and common darters. The long grasses beside the path play host to crickets such as speckled and dark bush crickets and on warm days we can see butterflies.

To see more of David’s photography go to davidchapman.org.uk